DODGE CITY, Kan. — A Kansas mayor has resigned following backlash to comments she made in a USA TODAY story in support of a mask mandate in her city.
Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw, citing concerns for her safety, resigned Tuesday, effective immediately.
“I understand people are under a lot of pressure from various things that are happening around society like the pandemic, the politics, the economy, so on and so forth, but I also believe that during these times people are acting not as they normally would,” Warshaw said. “I think it’s best for me and the city that I love to remove myself from the commission at this time and from the mayorship so that the city can move forward and be the best that it can be because I believe in the city.
A small town dragged its feet on COVID-19 mask mandates. Now residents are paying the price.
Since the Dec. 11 publication of the USA TODAY story, Warshaw said she has been met with aggression, including threats via phone and email from Dodge City citizens. Some threatening emails have been turned over to police, she said.
“We just felt like we had to do something so everybody was aware of how important it was for everybody to be responsible for each other’s health and well-being,” Warshaw was quoted in the USA TODAY story.
Dodge City is the most populous town in Ford County and one of the largest cities in western Kansas. The commission passed a mask mandate on Nov. 16 after more than 1 out of every 10 county residents had contracted the virus.
In an interview with the Dodge City Daily Globe, part of the USA TODAY Network, Warshaw said she didn’t have any regrets of voting in favor of the mask mandate.
“This is harder for me than people realize,” Warshaw said as she began to cry. “I really love this city with all my heart. I still believe in this city and I believe in their ability to not harm one another.”
Police are looking “into the substance of the communication to determine an appropriate course of action,” Dodge City Police Chief Drew Francis said of alleged threats against Warshaw.
The move to fill the commission vacancy will be conducted within the governing body.
“I was saddened to see the letter from Mayor Warshaw,” Commissioner Kent Smoll said. “I have not talked with her. Her decision is a personal one and I respect it. She was and continues to be a great ambassador for Dodge City. I wish Joyce the best.”
Warshaw was named to the city commission in 2012. In 2015, she was elected mayor, becoming the third female mayor in Dodge City history.
Contributing: Judd Weil, Dodge City Daily Globe; Andrea Ball, Jayme Fraser, and Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY